Book review - Fight Like a Physicist

Tony Dismukes

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One of my pet peeves is when martial arts practitioners decide to add an air of scientific authority to their pronouncements by digging out some formulas they remember from high school physics: kinetic energy = mass x velocity squared, force = mass x acceleration, momentum = mass x velocity. 99 times out of 100, the conclusions they draw from throwing these formulas about are either trivial (more body weight behind a punch means it hits harder) or completely incorrect (F = MA means your punch needs to still be accelerating at the moment of impact).

That being the case, I was curious about how an actual physicist (Jason Thalken, PhD) who is also an experienced martial artist would approach the application of physics to martial arts in his book: Fight Like a Physicist. I was not disappointed.

Thalken's prose is clear and engaging. He simplifies concepts for ease of analysis, but doesn't oversimplify to the point of drawing misleading conclusions. I have a bit of college-level physics, so I was familiar with the formulas being applied, but I learned some new ways to think about the meaning of how they applied in a martial arts context. I think even someone with no physics background at all could probably follow his explanations pretty well.

Topics explored in the book include: center of mass, the difference between high-momentum and high-energy strikes, why force measurements (such as typically shown in those "Fight Science" videos) are generally misleading and not useful, application of levers and wedges, the effects and likely mechanisms of CTE, what protective gear is and isn't good for, how various "chi" demonstration tricks are performed, how to apply scientific skepticism to what you learn, and more.

Fight Like a Physicist is a short, entertaining read, but contains plenty of useful information even for an experienced martial artist. I strongly recommend it.
 

pgsmith

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Thanks for the review, I'll have to put it on my "to read" list.

However, I've worked with a number of physicists, and not a one of them could have won a fight with a one-legged mannequin! :)
 

elder999

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Thanks for the review, I'll have to put it on my "to read" list.

However, I've worked with a number of physicists, and not a one of them could have won a fight with a one-legged mannequin! :)
Not me.!
rolling.gif



I liked the book....
 

gpseymour

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Great. Now I need to read it. And the Hobbit will want to read it. And then I'll have to ::shiver:: discuss it...with my wife.

This is your fault, Tony.
 

Martial D

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One of my pet peeves is when martial arts practitioners decide to add an air of scientific authority to their pronouncements by digging out some formulas they remember from high school physics: kinetic energy = mass x velocity squared, force = mass x acceleration, momentum = mass x velocity. 99 times out of 100, the conclusions they draw from throwing these formulas about are either trivial (more body weight behind a punch means it hits harder) or completely incorrect (F = MA means your punch needs to still be accelerating at the moment of impact).

That being the case, I was curious about how an actual physicist (Jason Thalken, PhD) who is also an experienced martial artist would approach the application of physics to martial arts in his book: Fight Like a Physicist. I was not disappointed.

Thalken's prose is clear and engaging. He simplifies concepts for ease of analysis, but doesn't oversimplify to the point of drawing misleading conclusions. I have a bit of college-level physics, so I was familiar with the formulas being applied, but I learned some new ways to think about the meaning of how they applied in a martial arts context. I think even someone with no physics background at all could probably follow his explanations pretty well.

Topics explored in the book include: center of mass, the difference between high-momentum and high-energy strikes, why force measurements (such as typically shown in those "Fight Science" videos) are generally misleading and not useful, application of levers and wedges, the effects and likely mechanisms of CTE, what protective gear is and isn't good for, how various "chi" demonstration tricks are performed, how to apply scientific skepticism to what you learn, and more.

Fight Like a Physicist is a short, entertaining read, but contains plenty of useful information even for an experienced martial artist. I strongly recommend it.
Chi? Tricks?

How DARE you.

If we ever meet in the street(doesn't even need to be the SAME street, such is the power of my chiballs) you better hope you are wearing loose enough shoes to raise dem big toes!
 

Rat

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i was actually considering getting it at some stage. So this is mildly helpful.


also a physicist would in all likely hood just build a cannon and shoot you if they were to fight you.
 

JR 137

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Thanks for the review, I'll have to put it on my "to read" list.

However, I've worked with a number of physicists, and not a one of them could have won a fight with a one-legged mannequin! :)
Nobody can beat a one legged mannequin. Nor any other mannequins for that matter. They lack a central nervous system and therefore feel no pain. They can’t be KOed, can’t tap out, etc. They’ll just stand there, expressionless (unless they have a fake permanent expression), and take everything you’ve got. Breaking them into pieces doesn’t phase them. My BOB XL has no arms and no legs, and I still can’t beat him. I’ve unfortunately beaten some people up, so I’d say I can at least fight OK.

And now on a serious note; I know plenty of non-physicists who can’t fight either. Regardless of the amount of training and hard work they’ve put in.
 
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Tony Dismukes

Tony Dismukes

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I liked the book....
From you, I’ll take that as confirmation that he hasn’t distorted the physics too badly in the process of simplification. I didn’t think he had, but your knowledge of the field is a whole lot deeper than mine.
 

gpseymour

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Chi? Tricks?

How DARE you.

If we ever meet in the street(doesn't even need to be the SAME street, such is the power of my chiballs) you better hope you are wearing loose enough shoes to raise dem big toes!
You just keep your chiballs in your chipants, mister.
 

marques

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I found it quite basic for a PhD. Anyway, I appreciate any temprative to explain martial arts in a scientific way.
 

elder999

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I found it quite basic for a PhD. Anyway, I appreciate any temprative to explain martial arts in a scientific way.
Asa former colleague was fond of saying (and you have to imagine him saying it in the slow Arkansas drawl)" if you can't explain something simply enough for your mother to understand it then you don't."

Just sayin'

Ans since it's nothing but Newtonian stuff, anyway, well there you go....
 

skribs

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One of my pet peeves is when martial arts practitioners decide to add an air of scientific authority to their pronouncements by digging out some formulas they remember from high school physics: kinetic energy = mass x velocity squared, force = mass x acceleration, momentum = mass x velocity. 99 times out of 100, the conclusions they draw from throwing these formulas about are either trivial (more body weight behind a punch means it hits harder) or completely incorrect (F = MA means your punch needs to still be accelerating at the moment of impact).

That being the case, I was curious about how an actual physicist (Jason Thalken, PhD) who is also an experienced martial artist would approach the application of physics to martial arts in his book: Fight Like a Physicist. I was not disappointed.

Thalken's prose is clear and engaging. He simplifies concepts for ease of analysis, but doesn't oversimplify to the point of drawing misleading conclusions. I have a bit of college-level physics, so I was familiar with the formulas being applied, but I learned some new ways to think about the meaning of how they applied in a martial arts context. I think even someone with no physics background at all could probably follow his explanations pretty well.

Topics explored in the book include: center of mass, the difference between high-momentum and high-energy strikes, why force measurements (such as typically shown in those "Fight Science" videos) are generally misleading and not useful, application of levers and wedges, the effects and likely mechanisms of CTE, what protective gear is and isn't good for, how various "chi" demonstration tricks are performed, how to apply scientific skepticism to what you learn, and more.

Fight Like a Physicist is a short, entertaining read, but contains plenty of useful information even for an experienced martial artist. I strongly recommend it.

I'll have to check it out.

For some reason, this makes me think of when I was new to my Taekwondo school:
When my master demonstrated hapkido techniques on another student, I was like "that is so fake."
Then he demonstrated on me and I was like "THAT IS NOT FAKE!"
 
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